Columbus is getting an expanded community garden for fresh-grown produce for residents to enjoy.
The Hive Community Farm and Garden is a new approach to bringing fresh produce to Columbus residents. The organization acquired a new location adjacent to the hut for the Columbus chapter of the Boys Scouts of America on 31st Avenue North.
Columbus Garden Board President Salem Gibson spoke to the Exchange Club of Columbus Thursday at Lion Hills Center about the organization. He said it will not only grow fruits and vegetables to distribute to community members but also aim to educate residents on the process of creating a home garden.
“We have two goals for this,” Gibson said. “One, to have education for children on where their food comes from, the nutrition behind it and what it means to actually grow and be sustainable; and two, provide for people who didn’t have the knowledge or didn’t know what to do to grow their own food.”
The Hive began in 2017 with a small location downtown containing only five or six raised beds. Gibson said the garden’s impact was minimal at the time because of the size of the growing space. With the new location, which will contain 10 to 15 raised beds, he feels confident residents will utilize the garden more, and it will have a greater impact on the community.
“It was at first an opportunity for people who lived downtown who didn’t have yards or anywhere to grow anything,” Gibson said. “Local businesses could come down and use this as well for fresh produce.”
The initial growing process will be planted for in fall, Gibson said, and the first batch of products will include leafy greens, potatoes, radishes and carrots.
Gibson said the Hive’s board of nine all have a passion for gardening. Two board members have worked with community gardens before, and the organization is hoping to partner with Mississippi State University Cooperative Extension Service to gain further insight on the growing experience.
Once the garden is in full operation, community members can take advantage of its benefits and receive produce. Gibson said the board plans to provide for local food pantries and deliver to some residents’ houses.
The community garden has also grown financially through the help of local partners such as the Columbus Exchange Club, Rotary of Columbus, Frank P. Phillips Memorial YMCA Association, Columbus Homeless Coalition and the Columbus Public Library. These partners helped provide the new location and administered the funds to launch construction.
Board member C.T. Salazar said the organization will rely heavily on volunteers to assist in growing and the upkeep of the garden. The board has recruited about 25 volunteers so far and hopes to instruct them on how to maintain and preserve the garden.
“It’s not a project that we put a lot of money into, and then decide we don’t want to do anymore and then it falls apart,” Salazar said. “It’s a project that we’re very committed to training other people to take up, so in a future where it outgrows us, it’s something that continues even as people take more active roles in it.”
The organization has plans for fundraising initiatives and plant-based programming. These events will hopefully bring in revenue while also educating the community about gardening, Salazar said.
“We have a bunch of events we’re wanting to do,” Salazar said. “One that we’re looking at doing is a storytelling night of plants themselves. Basically, community members can come in with a plant and tell why that’s their favorite plant with a story connected around it.”
Salazar said he believes this community garden will be a way for the Columbus area to come together through a common goal of gardening. He said the organization wants to provide for the residents and give them a channel for securing fresh produce.
“I’m hoping that the biggest thing that the community takes away from this is the joy of working together on a project,” Salazar said, “but also getting resources and education that’s open to anyone, whether that’s workshops for kids on basic gardening or workshops for adults on gardening and produce.”